La Rochelle Mayor Jean-François Fountaine announced that the American fast-food giant would not be pursuing its planned outlet overlooking the Old Port
After several weeks of rumour and heated debate, it seems that the junk-food giant has been slayed and will not now be going ahead with its plans to open an outlet at the site of the former Brasserie des Dames on the Vieux Port (main pic) of La Rochelle in the Charentes-Maritime department on France’s west coast.
The town is one of the jewels in the crown of the French coast. Its proud sailing tradition is served by France’s largest Atlantic-coast marina while its well-preserved city centre was one of the first in France (and Europe) to be pedestrianised and saved from modernisation by developers. La Rochelle is also one of the first cities to have its own free bike scheme (since 1974). Its quaint and lively Old Port area – full of traditional seafood restaurants, brasserie bars, ice-cream parlours and tourist-oriented shops is a pretty and particularly culturally sensitive zone.
It was with a certain amount of horror, therefore, that the citizens of this great city began to hear about plans by McDonald’s to implant their golden arches right in the heart of such hallowed surroundings. The rumours got to the point where the town’s socialist mayor Jean-François Fountaine (himself formerly a sailor of some note) sought a meeting with the directors of the US-owned burger joint to see if it was true. Just last week – on the 8th of December – McDonald’s France announced that they were pulling out of the planned opening.
Mayor Fountaine expressed his personal satisfaction at the result. He said that he, for one, was a Rochelais citizen who did not want to see such a business opening at the Vieux Port.
“It does not fit with with the image of the Vieux Port,” he said speaking on France Bleu Radio, adding that this image was something that was very important to the town and highly protected. “You don’t have the right to forbid one brand over another. You can, however, be very exacting with regard to the façade and the possible nuisances associated with such a product: I’m thinking about the rubbish that such a place generates, that sort of thing. That’s why I wanted to talk to them of these concerns… but now the matter is closed and there won’t be any McDonald’s on the Old Port of La Rochelle.”
The campaign against ‘McDo’ had been gathering momentum, with two online petitions under way: the first was in favour of McDonald’s opening a Vieux Port outlet. It got 389 signatures. The second – the one opposing the presence of McDonald’s at the Old Port – easily eclipsed the first with a total of 5,628 signatories.
(Below – La Rochelle mayor Jean-François Fountaine speaking on Radio France Bleu)